About six weeks ago, I quit aspartame. Cold turkey. I'd been hearing bad things about aspartame for a long time, and, regardless of the truth behind all the dire warnings, I knew that consuming so much aspartame couldn't be good for me.
When I was a senior in high school, I spent a month on the Atkins diet. I was miserable, and I ended up dreaming of potatoes before I decided to run far away from the diet ... but one thing from the diet that stuck was the switch I made from regular to diet pop. But where I'd been drinking maybe three or four regular sodas per week, when it came to the diet pop, it was a free for all. It wasn't unusual for me to drink two or three cans per day. In college, I had pop with every meal except breakfast. I regularly drank two cans per day at work. And any time I went out to eat, I'd have four, five, or even six glasses of pop.
I'm honestly not sure how I made the decision to quite aspartame ... I just did it. The first week was torture. I knew I'd be giving up my beloved Diet Coke, but I had no idea how prevalent aspartame is. All of my gum? Gone. My water enhancers (Mio, Crystal Light)? Gone. I spent about a week longing for what I could no longer have. Plus, there were the physical symptoms. I had some of the worst headaches I've ever had in my life during that week. And three days after I quit, I had scary physical symptoms—heart palpitations, shakiness, and extreme fatigue.
It hasn't been all sunshine and rainbows since that week, but all my withdrawal symptoms are gone, and I'm proud of myself for making this change!
It's important to note that I haven't quit all artificial sweeteners—that would be practically impossible, though I know it would be good for me—but my use of sweeteners is dramatically less. I found a gum (Dentyne Fire) that doesn't use aspartame as a sweetener. And I bought a SodaStream. It uses artificial sweeteners in most of its syrups, but no aspartame or high fructose corn syrup. My pop consumption has dropped to about 12 ounces per day—not ideal, but much better than before. I now read labels on practically all food and drink before I buy it—fortunately, everything containing aspartame must be labeled with the following warning: "Phenylketonurics: Contains Phenylalanine," which saves me from reading through insanely long ingredient lists.
This is definitely a lifestyle change for me, but it's so worth it! I feel healthier, and I've even dropped a couple pounds even though I haven't changed my exercise habits. I know I have a long way to go before I'm truly living a healthy lifestyle (and if you know how to magically make me like fruits and vegetables, please let me know!), but I'm proud of myself for taking this first step.
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